CHANDLER More than a month after 2-year-old Kelsey Smith-Briggs died, family, friends and strangers are coping with her death by calling attention to child-abuse prevention. Nearly 50 adults and children gathered Monday afternoon outside the Lincoln County Courthouse to peacefully protest a system they say failed the toddler. They circled the block carrying signs, wearing buttons and talking about the girl's tragic death. Kelsey died Oct. 11 after her stepfather allegedly hit her in the abdomen. Other signs of abuse, including broken bones, had been documented repeatedly. Stepfather Michael Lee Porter, 25, has been charged with first degree murder. Eighth-grader Kaitlin Cruise, 14, was in town with her father when she saw the protest forming on the courthouse sidewalks. The Chickasha girl, wearing a blue jacket and a tight ponytail, read the signs and asked if she could carry one, too. "It's so sad that little kids get abused like that, Cruise said. "She didn't have that long to live. Kelsey's case upsets Martin Toten, who drove 80 miles to participate in the protest: "Every time I've seen that little girl on TV, I cry. The Chickasha man heard about the rally on the radio, and made the trip with friend Denis Dickinson. Dickinson said that as a parent, he wants to send a message that abuse is unacceptable. Shirley Singleton of Nicoma Park took the day off work at Tinker Air Force Base to come to Chandler. The grandmother said she's been following the case since Kelsey's death. "Children have no voice, Singleton said, her lower lip quivering. "We're the only voice they have. Everyone should be a child advocate. Advocacy is helping Kelsey's family cope with her death. "It's things like this, her stepgrandmother Teri Sigman said, "that are getting us by, getting us through. Protecting children The protest was organized by LOVE, Let Our Voices Echo for Children, a grassroots group formed by relatives and friends. Sigman said she wants the handful of Lincoln County DHS workers involved with Kelsey's case to be fired. DHS still employs those child welfare workers, agency spokesman George Johnson said late Monday. "All of the reviews that we've had to date of the work that was done has been appropriate, he said. Sigman also wants Judge Craig Key, who was involved with the case and ultimately returned Kelsey to her mother and stepfather, to step down. Contacted at home, the judge declined comment. "He decided Kelsey's fate, Sigman said. "All the evidence was there. Kelsey's stepmother, Ashley Briggs, said she hopes the rally will bring attention to child abuse prevention: "It's a way to protect other children. Kim Green, a foster mother from Wellston, said she would like to see reform: "We all need to work together to close the cracks this child fell through.
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